Local Councils’ Association (Malta) – Pilot City

SURFACE (km2): 5.3 km2
INHABITANTS: 15,314
POPULATION DENSITY: 2,900/km2

For the Pilot Project the Local Councils’ Association has decided to focus on the town of Ħaż-Żabbar (also known as Città Hompesch), the sixth largest town in Malta, with a population of 15,314 in March 2013. It is located in the south-east of the country. Originally a part of Zejtun, Ħaż-Żabbar was granted the title of Città Hompesch by the last of the Grandmasters of the Knights of St. John to reign in Malta, Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim.

The name of the city probably derives from the Maltese word ‘tiżbor’, the process of pruning trees. Indeed, a number of families who specialised in pruning, żbir, are known to have lived in the vicinity of this village during the Middle Ages. Other possibilities of this derivation exist. Żabbar was also the surname of an important family that was known to have lived in the area. Ħaż-Żabbar could also have been a corruption of Ħas-Sabbar (the consoler village), because people from all over the island used to visit the village to pray Our Lady of Graces for consolation.

The word sabbar could also be the plural of sabbara (the Aloe Vera plant) in Maltese. This would be derived from the Arabic sabbar or subbar meaning cacti. In fact, in some Arab countries sabar means prickly pear. The “s” in this case, is strong and is pronounced as “z”. Judging by the names of other Maltese villages, like nearby Żejtun (meaning olive in Arabic) it seems quite probable that such names may have agricultural connotations.